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A weekly roundup of news, trends and insights designed exclusively for security professionals. This publication is intended for security staff only.

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In this issue — December 7, 2016

  • Tech companies move to target terrorist propaganda online
  • Experts: Nation-State Hacking from Russia, China to Continue in 2017
  • Military Now Sees Russia as Its Biggest Threat
  • One-Fifth of Government Agencies Don’t Encrypt Data
  • House Passes $619B Defense Policy Bill
  • Obama Commission Urges Trump to Strengthen Cybersecurity
  • Major Cybercrime Network Dismantled in Global Takedown
  • Senate Calls for Info on Russian Interference
  • Half of IT Pros Say Insider Threats Worse than Hackers
  • Study: U.S. Falling Behind China, Russia on Hypersonic Missiles

Tech companies move to target terrorist propaganda online (AP, 12/6/16)

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are joining forces to more quickly identify the worst terrorist propaganda and prevent it from spreading online. The new program announced Monday would create a database of unique digital “fingerprints” to help automatically identify videos or images the companies could remove.

The move by the technology companies, which is expected to begin in early 2017, aims to assuage government concerns — and derail proposed new federal legislation — over social media content that is seen as increasingly driving terrorist recruitment and radicalization, while also balancing free-speech issues. More

Experts: Nation-State Hacking from Russia, China to Continue in 2017 (IBT, 12/5/16)

In 2016, nation-state hacking went mainstream.  Previously confined to the shadows, overt cyber-espionage activities spilled over into the political sphere following high-profile attacks at the Democratic National Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.  These government-backed hacking teams are well-funded, well-resourced, and tactically sophisticated.  According to the predictions of multiple cybersecurity firms, their cyberattacks are set to continue in the coming year.

“We’ve seen an increase in overt Russian aggression in 2016 and we expect that to continue in 2017,” said FireEye’s 2017 prediction report.  “Russia has a well-funded cyber capability and excellent operational security to hide the source of their attacks.” More

Military Now Sees Russia as Its Biggest Threat (Business Insider, 12/5/16)

Russia’s increasing military activities around the world have unsettled top U.S. military officials, who say they are reshaping their budget plans to better address what they now consider to be the most pressing threat to the nation’s security.  “Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States.  We have a number of threats that we’re dealing with, but Russia could be, because of the nuclear aspect, an existential threat to the United States,” Deborah James, the secretary of the Air Force, said this week.

James, the chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, and the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer, Frank Kendall, all voiced growing concern in interviews Saturday about Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior.  Their comments come as the Pentagon finalizes a classified security assessment for President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to both pump up defense spending and build closer ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. More

One-Fifth of Government Agencies Don’t Encrypt Data (Info Security, 12/5/16)

Nearly 20% of government agencies using a public cloud do not encrypt data, but still see security as a top priority.  That’s the word from a survey of government IT decision-makers by HyTrust analyzing the government and military’s use of public cloud vendors, the utilization of public cloud implementations, and how government and military organizations are protecting data in these cloud environments.

Government agencies today are facing budget constraints and increasingly strict regulations.  Many governments have implemented policies that require agencies to consider cloud-based technology options, which has been a major driver in governments exploring cloud options, but according to the results, respondents still prioritize security as the top concern, followed by cost. More

House Passes $619B Defense Policy Bill (The Hill, 12/2/16)

The House last week easily passed this year’s annual defense policy bill with bipartisan support in a 375-34 vote.  The bill would authorize a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.

Another $8.3 billion from the OCO account — $3.2 billion more than Obama requested — would be used for base budget requirements such as a pay raise for troops and troop increases.  The troop pay raise would be 2.1%, above the president’s request for a 1.6% pay raise.  End strength would also be increased across the services.  The Navy would remain at 323,900 troops, but the new caps for the rest would be 476,000 for the Army, 185,000 for the Marines, and 321,000 for the Air Force. More

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Obama Commission Urges Trump to Strengthen Cybersecurity (Federal Times, 12/2/16)

A national commission last week delivered urgent recommendations to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. The report follows the worst hacking of U.S. government systems in history and accusations by the Obama administration that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election.

The Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity spelled out actions the U.S. can take over the next five to 10 years. The White House requested the report in February and intended it to serve as a transition memo for the next president. The panel studied issues that included sharing information with private companies about cyber threats, the lack of talented American security engineers, and distrust of the U.S. government by private businesses, especially in Silicon Valley. More

Major Cybercrime Network Dismantled in Global Takedown (CSO, 12/2/16)

Law enforcement agencies have dismantled a major cybercriminal network responsible for malware-based attacks that have been harassing victims across the globe for years.  The network, called Avalanche, operated as many as 500,000 infected computers on a daily basis and was responsible for delivering malware through phishing email attacks.

Avalanche has been active since at least 2009, but last week, authorities in the U.S. and Europe announced they had arrested five suspects allegedly involved with it.  Europol estimated the network has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages across the world.  To shut it down, law enforcement agencies embarked on an investigation that lasted longer than four years and involved agents and prosecutors in more than 40 countries. More

Senate Calls for Info on Russian Interference (Eastern Daily News, 12/2/16)

Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have called on the government to release information on interference from the Russian government in regards to the U.S. election. They believe this information is being held back. Eight senators have written to President Barack Obama asking him to declassify the relevant intelligence held by the government on potential interference during the election.

However, the senators did not accuse the Russian government or President-elect Trump of any wrongdoing. The letter stated, “We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public. We are conveying specifics through classified channels.” No Republicans signed the letter.
 More

Half of IT Pros Say Insider Threats Worse than Hackers (Info Security, 12/1/16)

A survey from Dimensional Research reveals that 49% of IT security professionals are most concerned with insider threats.  In terms of the type of insider threat, a lack of worker awareness is top-of-mind: The majority of security professionals (87%) are most concerned about naive individuals or careless employees who bend the rules to get their job done; only 13% are more concerned about malicious insiders who intend to do harm.

Malware installed unintentionally by employees was the top concern (73%), ahead of stolen or compromised credentials (66%), stolen data (65%), and abuse of admin privileges (63%).  “Internal threats are as important as external threats … an employee cutting corners to get their job done is viewed as potentially just as dangerous as a malicious external hacker,” said Diane Hagglund of Dimensional Research. More

Study: U.S. Falling Behind China, Russia on Hypersonic Missiles (DC Free Beacon, 11/30/16)

The United States is vulnerable to future attack by hypersonic missiles from China and Russia and is falling behind in the technology race to develop both defensive and offensive high-speed maneuvering arms, according to a new Air Force study.  “The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation are already flight-testing high-speed maneuvering weapons that may endanger both forward deployed U.S. forces and even the continental United States itself,” an executive summary of the report says.

“These weapons appear to operate in regimes of speed and altitude,” the summary adds, “with maneuverability that could frustrate existing missile defense constructs and weapon capabilities.”  Hypersonic missiles are ultra-high-speed weapons that travel along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.  The missiles also can maneuver to avoid current missile defenses. More